It was near midnight when he pulled the pickup truck into the lower level of the parking garage and found a place well covered by the security cameras as well as within sight of the security guards station. This was not exactly a gentile neighborhood being near the docks and warehouses of the port. He grabbed two large duffle bags from behind the seats of the truck and headed out of the garage nodding to the half interested security guard as he walked past.
To all outward appearances Carl could have been just another sailor going to the docks to prepare for the approaching storm though his duffle bags seemed more bulky than most. What was visible in the darkness of night was a long coat over a dark pair of cargo pants and heavy boots topped off by a wool cap worn over short sandy colored hair. Outside of his green eyes Carl's facial features were unremarkable aside from showing the effects of weather and the scars of fights one would expect to see after many years at sea... or in battle.
Trucks filled with workers and sandbags passed him as he made his way to a remote nondescript warehouse on the ship channel side of the port. It was about 3 stories tall with a large door on each side big enough for trucks and a normal size door next each large one. Running just under the roofs edge there was a row of windows on the two walls that constituted the long axis of the warehouse.
He circled the warehouse quickly. His senses telling him that what he was looking for was indeed in the warehouse. He also discovered that the security alarm had been disabled and that the doors were locked from the inside. He walked over to some large crates stacked nearby that where in shadows cast by the security lights in the area. He removed his coat and opened his duffle bag.
Under the coat and trousers he wore the latest high tech compression sports wear for hot conditions, all black, With the coat off giving a better look you would guess him to be about 6 foot tall, a muscular 200 lbs and about 35 to 40 years of age. At least that was how he appeared. Carl started to quickly pull various items from the duffle bag and put them on. First was a synthetic mesh vest with padding at the shoulders and other areas. He removed his wool stocking cap and pulled on a synthetic stocking cap that not only padded his head but was cooler than the wool cap Next he pulled on a byrnie, a long sleeved, waist length chain mail shirt. He then put on a barbute style helmet directly over the stocking cap. This was followed by a 3 foot long sword in scabbard with belt and a round shield about 3 feet in diameter. He then pulled on a pair of gauntlets. The next to last item was a small battleaxe. He looked at as if considering and then stuck it in his belt. The final item was a .44 mag revolver. Carl looked at it then the warehouse then back at the gun before returning it to the duffle bag. He then hid the duffle bags behind the crates.
Outside of the gun the rest of the items were, admittedly, a strange outfit for a man to be wearing in the 21st Century but Carl as not a man of the 21st Century for he was not 35 years old but several centuries older. It would be inaccurate to call him a man of the past because he transcended time. Carl was part of group that had been referred to in various mythologies. In Western cultures they were known as Paladins, the Twelve Peers or Knights of the Round Table as a few examples. While many of the stories that about them had little basis in fact the Paladin did and do exist. They were and are part of the continuous battle between good and evil for control of the earth. Carl had been part of that battle longer than he cared to remember. In the past he would have been storming a castle or riding a horse into battle to slay dragons, now he drives a pickup truck to a parking garage.
Cell phones, laptops and assault weapons were just as likely to part of his weaponry now as swords, shields and armor. And they were not just any weapons and armor. They were holy, enchanted, magical or mystical, pick the term of your choice. The helmet and chain mail were not shinny or gleaming but darker than black as if they absorbed all light. In low light they would appear as a shadow. The Shield was similar in appearance except for a grayish ring along the outer edge. His sword was not some flaming sword of righteousness or light but also as dark as his armor with a thin gray outline denoting the cutting edge. In dark or lowlight conditions it would be invisible. His one handed battleaxe was a different story. It was not enchanted though it had been blessed. It was not a dark weapon but being brown in color with a cutting blade on one side and barbed piercing one on the other. It was a titanium and carbon fiber combination. This would be his first opportunity to try it in actual battle.
Carl approached one of the small side doors to the warehouse. He stared at it for a few seconds then there was a clicking sound as the lock was opened. He looked around noting the approaching storm clouds with increasing wind and lightning. He slid quietly through door shutting and locking it behind him. It was dark inside the warehouse except for the soft flicking glow at the opposite end. The only sounds were from some large slow turning ventilation fans, the increasing wind noise from outside and a rhythmic chanting coming from the direction of the light...
There were two rows of shelves running the length of the warehouse each almost reaching the roof. They all had various sized crates, boxes and palletized material loaded onto them. Carl moved silently toward the light and chanting sounds staying hidden between a row of shelves and wall. As he got closer to the lighted area he climbed to the top of the shelves a moved to look down almost directly into the lighted area. His movements were silent despite the armor and weaponry he carried.
He saw five figures in black full-length hooded robes. Each was standing on the point of a pentagram inscribed on the floor. They were facing in towards the center each holding a torch. Also at each point was a burning candle. At their feet were bowls and spattered and pooled in the center of the pentagram was a red liquid that, if Carl's past experience was anything to go by, was probably human blood. He did not ponder on whose blood it might be for to long. He did not see a body lying around so it was probably collected earlier either by force or willingly donated. There were believers and then there were believers. He noticed movement on the shelving opposite his and he could make out a figure in the shadows. Carl had a pretty good idea who, or what it was and knew there would be no interference or threat from that quarter. At least not directly
He briefly considered disrupting their ceremony, obviously they were hoping to conjure or summon some evil being or creature, but that would solve nothing. Even if he eliminated these followers of evil others would take their place and there would still be demon spawn waiting in the ranks to be called forth. Nope let the demon come forth and he could deal with them all at once.
As their ritual continued he could feel a slight vibration as the pentagram began to glow and smoke began to rise. Carl removed his sword from its scabbard and adjusted his hold on the shield. Everything went silent. Not just quite but absolutely no sound, no wind noise, no fans truing, no chanting, not even the sound of his own breathing.
Then there was a loud boom of thunder outside followed by a howling wind and driving rain. It rattled the walls of the warehouse as well as the shelving he stood on. At the same time a swirling column of flame erupted from the pentagram. The five hooded figures continued with their chanting even as a tentacle of fire reached out from the column to drag one of them screaming into the inferno. The storm increased intensity as did the column of flames. Another tentacle of flame reached out a grabbed second disciple. This one went more quietly. Must have been a really true believer thought Carl.
The wind had picked up in strength so that it was rattling the roof and walls of the warehouse with greater intensity. At the same time a figure began to coalesce out of the flames. The entity formed was about 12 feet tall with a muscular frame and, as the flames died down, was tan in color covered in reptilian like scales. Its eyes were solid black orbs. The creature's mouth was shark like with multiple rows of teeth. The head was like a deformed pumpkin set directly on its shoulders with little neck to speak of. It had only two arms, each six foot in length ending in a three-fingered claw. Each claw added another 8 inches to the length of the arms. The arms themselves appeared to have an extra joint between the elbows and wrists. The creature stood upright on feet that resembled a bird of prey's talons. Carl's attention was captured by the creature's 12-foot tail. It appeared to be covered in thick hairs and ended in a scorpion type stinger. This was one of the more unique looking creatures to come from hell's depth he thought, and he had seen more than few.
The creature stood in the still smoldering pentagram and surveyed the 3 remaining disciples of evil before him. They were kneeling with their heads down as if awaiting a command. Instead they got death. The creature's arms shot out impaling two of the disciples on his claws lifting them off the ground and toward his mouth were it started to eat them as if they were snacks on tooth picks. Unfortunately for the disciples, even impaled on his claws they were they were still alive as the demon's teeth tore off various body parts for ingestion. Their screams were almost drowned out by the storm outside. This proved too much for the one remaining disciple and he broke and ran for the nearest door. The creature watched in almost indifference and then turned sideways toward the fleeing former believer. It then raised its tail flicking it almost like a whip toward the running figure. The fleeing disciple then became the dead disciple as his body was pinned to the door by 6-inch quills from the tail of the beast.
"Well that is certainly different" thought Carl as he glanced at the shadowy figurer across the warehouse. The beast had resumed snacking on what was left of the two individuals still stuck to his claws. The storm had increased in intensity; the wind was becoming a steady roar almost drowned out by the near continuous thunder. "Well enough of this sitting around time to go to work "Carl said out loud as he prepared to jump down and confront the beast head on. The beast looked up at the sound of his voice, let out a roar and flung what remained of his meal off his claws and on to the floor. They hit with more of splash than thud so little of them was left. More out of coincidence than design Carl jumped down from the shelves just as the beast threw some quills from its tail at him. The 8 quills missed, imbedding themselves in the shelving, walls and roof. Not a very tight grouping he thought glancing up at the imbedded projectiles. Carl had already sized up his opponent. The creatures had the advantage of size, weight and reach plus had at least one projectile weapon. He also guessed that those scales would be hard to hack cut through. The Warehouse was fairly confining with the large shelving so getting around the creature would also be difficult.
On the plus side his shield and helmet would protect him from slashing, stabbing and biting attacks from the creature. His chain mail would offer protection from slashing attacks and all his special armor offered protection from most attacks magical in origin such as flame. It was the unprotected parts of his body he would have to worry about. Unlike the old days he no longer carried a full suit of armor. It would have required a third large duffle bag and been a little conspicuous carrying around in public. Carl has also grown to prefer the freedom of movement the wearing of less armor had afforded him. His sword was unbreakable, never dulled was far lighter than its size would indicate so he was able to employ it with lighting fast speed. His battleaxe lacked the enchanted characteristics of his sword and armor, instead of relying on the advanced technology of its material, although it had been blessed.
Carl approached the creature at a fast walk, shield held high sword low. The beast stood its ground roaring and crouched low arms held wide, tail held high like a scorpion's. Carl was prepared for what happened nest. Flames shot out rapidly from the creature's mouth, after all what type of demon spawn cannot project fire in some form? He crouched down behind his shield as the flames approached but not for protection from the flames as the flames appeared to hit an invisible wall about a foot from him. While Carl could not summon and project fire he could control it. In this case he just stopped its movement toward him. He could have just as easily turned the flames in another direction. He held his shield in front of him because he had a hunch what was coming next and he was right. Out of the flames game about a dozen quills. Half passed over his head or to his left while the remainder bounced off his shield. The creature may be evil and ugly but was not completely stupid. It had counted on the flames, if not injuring him, blocking his view of the oncoming quills it launched just after it released its fire.
As the flames cleared the creature saw that his attack had failed. It let out a roar and charged forward, as did Carl. There was no clashing of bodies together instead a dance of death ensued. Carl attempted to get inside the creature's claws and tail to deliver a deadly blow while the creature tried to use its reach and range weapons to its advantage.
Carl found himself only able to land hacking blows against the beast's arms and tail. His sword may have been able to cut steel but getting deep cuts against the hardened scales of this creature of darkness were another story. . It seemed the creature's arms were not bulky so much with muscle as extra layers of scales.
The creature would attack him with its arms and tail as Carl moved in. Carl would make a slashing attack against one of the extremities, aiming for a joint if he could, while blocking one of the other extremities with his shield then quickly parrying the third with is sword. At other times he would try a smashing down with the edge of his shield on a joint or the tail. At the same time he had to be alert for the attack by fire or launching or quills. This was one of the reasons he liked the less armor, he had to move fast. That is not to say the beast did not score a hit or two. One was a glancing blow to the head by beast's tail that caused his head to ring briefly, the other was a slashing blow to his side that knocked him a couple of feet. Neither blow penetrated the armor, that was impossible but the armor did not render him invincible. Some of the force of impact was transmitted to his body.
The blow to his head would have crushed his skull were it not for the helmet but instead he would be left with a headache. The slashing blow to his side would have cut him in two without the chain mail but instead he would have some bruised ribs. They could have just as easily been broken had the blow been stronger. His shield also absorbed and dissipated a large percentage of any impact on it. It like his helmet were impervious to any piercing attack such as thrust by the creatures claws, scorpion like stinger on its tail or the quills but the chain mail would be driven into whatever hole they created as they struck his body. The armor would remain intact; his body would not though it would serve to limit the depth of penetration. Plate armor would solve part of this problem but even "enchanted" plate armor was heavy and would slow him down too much.
The beast was not unharmed either. So far Carl has managed to remove one clawed finger from each hand while coming close to hacking through one of its extra joints on its left arm. But this certainly was not going to kill the creature. They had both pulled back from each the as if they need to catch their breath. Carl could still hear the storm as the increase in intensity had slowed but not stopped. He was not getting anywhere and time was not on his side. He had to get in close and deliver a killing blow fast. An added complication was that the floor was getting slippery with what passed for the creatures blood.
Carl took out the battleaxe and held it with his shield hand. The beast approached and as he hoped for attacked with a blast of fire and quills. He ducked down behind his shield as the quills bounced off of it at the same time he laid down his sword and shifted the axe to his right hand. While doing all this he had stopped the fire short of him. Once he had sifted his weapons he turned the fire back at his opponent directly into its face. While flames could not hurt the beast it did masked Carl's actions from its view. Carl stood and threw the battleaxe at the beast head hopefully towards its open flame belching mouth; the same flames that blocked the beast view of him also blocked Carl's view of its head soit was a best guess throw. He was rewarded not with a roar from the beast but the scream of a wounded animal.
Carl glanced at his sword and it flew back into his hand, yes he had a limited ability with telekinesis that is how he unlocked the door. He hoped to imbed his axe in the thing's skull or at least take out an eye but this was better. The beast had decided to charge him from behind the cover of flames and the axe had hit it in the mouth in mid rotation with the piecing blade imbedded in the roof of it mouth and the cutting edge stuck its lower jaw partially splitting it. The creature must have instinctively bit down on it as the axe entered its mouth. It was now trying desperately with its mangled claws remove it. The demon turned its head skyward and tried to burn axe out with it fire but only succeeded in heating it up. Carl took this opportunity to charge, the beast.
Realizing too late what was happening the Demon was lowering its head just as Carl drove his shield up into it lower jaw this drove the piercing blade of the axe deep into it skull as the creatures jaws were forced close. At the same time Carl plunged his sword up into the things chest coming up under the breastbone. The momentum pushed the beast over backwards carrying Carl with it. It landed with a thud. Carl rolled off it pulling his sword out as he did so. There was no thrashing about, screams or roars from the beast; it was finished.
Even now smoke and heat was beginning to rise from the creature. It took three quick cuts from his sword to free his battleaxe from the beast's skull, so deeply it was imbedded. The battleaxe was still hot from the beast's attempts to burn it away but otherwise seem to have held up well. He quickly moved to the nearest exit from the warehouse, as he exited the door the beast's corpse erupted into a huge pillar of flame quickly spreading through the warehouse. Once outside he retrieved his duffle bag and moved to a safe location while the entire warehouse erupted into flame. As he was changing back his less conspicuous clothing he noted that storm had all but disappeared with just a slight wind and a few rain drops present.
Carl made his way unnoticed back to the parking garage; in the distance he could hear the sirens from approaching fire trucks probably in response to a warehouse fire. The fire would no doubt be attributed to the storm. Fire investigators would find no bodies, as the intensity of the fire would remove all traces of the beast and its disciples.
He climbed into his truck and drove home. Home in this case was a two bedroom two bath with attached garage. His neighbors did not know much about him except that he seemed pleasant enough if a little antisocial. His line of work was rumored to be some type of consulting as he was often away traveling. After entering his home he turned on the news. They were reporting the surprising dissipation of a storm that had been expected to reach category 5 and cause major damage. Right now there were reports of some minor wind damage and one warehouse fire but no casualties. "None except 5 disciples of Satan and one of his more imaginative creations" thought Carl. He quickly logged onto his security system and reviewed the surveillance recordings making sure there were no unwelcome visitors who had managed to get past his security both magical and technology based. Satisfied all was secure he logged on to his computer and sent an After Action Report as well as an evaluation if the battleaxe to a secure online forum that served a clearinghouse/ of information as well as weapons and services available for the It was through this database that Carl obtained the battleaxe.